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Preparing Your Child for the First Day of School

Updated on September 21, 2014
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Stepping Out Into the World

There comes a time in every child's life when it's time to go to school. It always comes sooner than you think, and most likely before you're ready to let go.

Going to school for the first time is an important step, and not one you can prevent, no matter how much you want to keep them your little baby.

Preparing them, and yourself, for that first day of school is extremely important, and hopefully this article will help you on your way.


A Few Months Before the Start of School

You need to start a few months before school starts. Preparing takes a lot of work and it's easiest if started early and not rushed.

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Prepared workstation
Prepared workstation | Source

Doing Her Homework at Her Space

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Organize Yourself

First, you need to prepare for the paperwork inundation.

Your child will be bringing home a lot of papers. There will be flyers on upcoming bake sales, flyers letting you know about different things happening at the school, and numerous other papers that you'll need to keep track of.

Then there's all your child's wonderful creations, there's only so much room on the fridge. If possible, make a little desk area or devote a few drawers somewhere to keep these items in. Even small items may be important to your child once they grow up, so figure out how you are going to preserve their cherished objects and hard work.

Also, a bulletin board can be a wonderful way to keep important things to remember where you'll be able to see them and a big calendar to write important dates on is absolute must. You do not want to have to be baking 30 cupcakes in the middle of the night just because you didn't remember they were going to be needed for class.

This is a good time to organize all your child's important documents as well. You do not want to lose their shot records or anything else important, and you will need their important documents when registering them. Make a nice folder or find a place to keep them in so they don't get lost.

Perhaps most importantly, you'll also want to develop a space for your child to do their homework. Having a dedicated space to work makes a child do a better job and have everything he or she needs to do well. Something like the image on the right is good, though even a nook in the kitchen will work. No matter how much space you have at your house, some sort of corner where they will have good light and be able to keep their homework is important enough to dedicate a space.

At the School Registration

Make sure the school has your most current emergency contact information. Be sure to include more than one number on the list, as well as a trusted neighbor or friend as a back-up contact.

Share your child's health history, including allergies or learning disabilities, with the school nurse.

Get the flyer for what supplies you'll need.

Ready Your Child for School

Most schools have some basic requirements that must be met by the children before starting school. These usually include:

  • Knowing how to write their name
  • How to count to ten
  • Knowing each letter of the alphabet
  • How to go to the bathroom on their own
  • How to tie their shoes
  • How to paint, color, use scissors, etc at least a little bit
  • How to take care of their coat, school supplies, homework, etc
  • How to get along with other children

Visit the Doctor's Office

It's a good idea to go to the pediatrician's a bit before school.

The school will need their shot records and perhaps some boosters in order to be enrolled and it's a good idea to make sure your child is completely healthy and that any prescriptions are up to date before the chaotic days ahead start. You don't want to chance running out of asthma spray or having to take your child to the doctor's during school hours just because you didn't plan ahead and were too busy.

In later years, it's often necessary to get a physical done at the doctor's office in order to qualify for your child to play sports, so setting a pattern of getting their yearly physical done right before school can be handy. You'll always remember when it will be then as well.

Frightened about school
Frightened about school | Source

Get Your Child Happy About Starting School

If your child is happy to go to school, that's great!

Starting school with a good attitude is extremely important. That very first day of school will impact every other day of school they have for the rest of their lives.

Talk about how enjoyable it will be and let them know what expect. You want to encourage them to think of school as being a fun and interesting thing to do.

If your child is frightened about starting school you really need to thoroughly prepare before the big day. Soothe their fears by having a talk about school and what it will be like. Answer their questions and explain away anything that they're frightened of. Sometimes it's simply the unknown that makes it so frightening.

Getting Ready for the First Day of School

Talking about school
Talking about school | Source

Older Kids Can Help Younger Ones

Do you have older children or nice neighbor kids? Ask them to reassure your child.

Many kids will be quite dubious about anything you have to say about school, you haven't been there in like a million years, right? But an older kid, especially one your youngster looks up to, will be able to soothe their fears by telling them about what school is like for them (make sure the older kid is going to say primarily good things before hand, lol).

Since the older kids are in school right then too, the younger kids will hear what they have to say better and also maybe get some insider information. Your child will be ecstatic if they're the only kindergartner who knows that smiling sweetly at the lunch lady gets them an extra treat.

Help Your Child Make Friends

When you go into a room full of strangers, how do you feel?

Imagine your child walking into their classroom that very first day and seeing nothing but other kids they don't know. Most kids would be terrified.

Now think about when you go into a room filled with strangers, then spot a familiar face. Whether you like that person or not, there is something inherently reassuring about seeing someone you know in a room full of strangers.

We're not designed to not know people. For millions of years, humans have lived in close-knit groups, where they've known everyone since they were born. In those times, strangers were a source of danger and caused a sense of alarm to everyone in the group. That is still written into our DNA, and so being surrounded by nothing but strangers is extremely scary to most adults, not to mention kids.

One of the primary reasons children are frightened when they get to school that very first day is because everyone in the room but you is a stranger, and then when it's time for you to leave, they cling and cry. If you take their only security away, of course they're going to be frightened.

Find some other kids that will be attending the same school with your child and then let your child have a few playdates with them. Even if they don't become best buddies, at least they'll be familiar.

Going to the First Day of School

Friends on the way to school
Friends on the way to school | Source

Check around your neighborhood for friends too. Are any neighbor children going to be starting school this year as well? Are any kids in your playgroup going to be in that class?

Try to find at least one other child, preferably more, that will be there, then introduce your child to them before school starts. It will be much easier to meet a couple other kids outside of school, than it will be to meet them all at once the first day of class. And throughout school days it's nicest to have friends that live close.

When it comes time for your little one to go to school, you can remind them that their friends will be there. When you walk into the classroom, point out the friends so your child can see that they won't be alone, then remind them of all the fun they had together and how much fun they'll have together in school from now on.

All ready for school
All ready for school | Source

Get Your School Supplies

Each school will have different supply requirements for the children to bring with them to school so make sure to get the supply requirement flyer from the school, or check your local school supply place like Office Depot or Staples for the list.

Take your child to pick out which supplies they want, it'll make them more excited about attending school.

Make absolutely sure that you buy everything that is required on the list. Not only will a child without the proper supplies feel embarrassed, they won't have the supplies to do their work.

Some things required might be:

  • Crayons - get good crayons that aren't the icky clearer, waxy kind and you'll probably at least need a 24 pack
  • Pencils - usually the yellow ones and probably the 10 pack
  • Markers - washable and sized right for your child's hands
  • Construction Paper - a color variety pack. It may not be on the list, but it's handy to have for last minute projects around the house anyways
  • Watercolor paints
  • Scissors - Get a good pair of safety scissors (the kind with the rounded tips) that will be easy for your child to hold and open and close, some of them are too stiff and sticky
  • Extra Erasers - The ones on top of the pencils rarely last longer than an afternoon. Get both pencil-toppers and stand-alone erasers
  • Glue - usually a couple bottles of Elmer's glue and a couple of gluesticks. Most kids go through a lot of glue in school
  • Pencil Box - this is to hold their supplies
  • Lined Paper - get lots of paper, they go through this pretty quickly
  • Folders - cool folders to hold papers are important
  • 3-Ring Binders - Don't get a huge binder, they're too hard for the little kids to deal with, usually for this age group a 1" or 2" size is appropriate
  • Backpack - Get a good sturdy backpack that will hold all the supplies with a bit of room to spare
  • Snacks - small, easy-to-eat snacks are very important in schools that have snack times
  • Lunch bag - if they'll be eating lunch at school
  • Wet Wipes - a small pack is handy if your child will use them
  • Hand Sanitizer - if your child will use it
  • Kleenex - a small pocket pack, again, if your child will use it

Make sure everything is safe for children, it'll say on the label, and that you get well supplied. It's a good idea to pick up some extra supplies to have on hand as well since quite often there's an unexpected project that is due at the last minute and it saves having to scour stores for supplies at the last minute because your little one forgot to tell you about the huge project that is due. That primarily happens in the upper grades, but some kindergartners seem to cultivate it early and school supplies will store practically forever. If nothing else you'll have some supplies ready if your child uses up what they have for school.

You might want to make up some cute labels with your child's name on them and put them on the bigger school supplies like the glue bottles, binder, and crayon box. This will help keep your child's supplies from disappearing as they share tables with other kids. It doesn't mean it won't disappear, but will at least help prevent it from happening as much.

Add a good sturdy label to the top inside of your child's backpack with their name, your address, and your cell phone number on it, just in case the backpack gets lost, or even if your little one wanders off. It's always a good safety precaution to make sure everything or everybody gets back to where they're supposed to be. Also, pack a change of clothing in a Ziploc bag inside their backpack as well. If they have an accident or get really dirty it's a good idea for them to have something to change into.

When buying school supplies, it's always nice to help supply the classroom if you can. Teachers have to pay out of pocket for things like paper towels, Kleenex, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, Ziploc bags, etc. so even giving them a few paper towels is a wonderful gift. Teachers earn very little for quite a lot of work, don't make them spend what little they earn just to wipe your child's nose.

You can also teach your child about giving to others in need by buying two of each school supply and gifting the extra set to a child in need. Most schools have boxes where they accept extra school supplies to pass out to their students who can't afford to get the necessary items to attend school and places that sell a lot of school supplies often have a box somewhere too. Buying an extra set of supplies and then gifting them can be a wonderful tradition to start with your child.

Set Up a Routine

Set regular routines before the school year begins. Keep them easy to do. It can be as simple as having a regular bath time or reading time, picking out the next day's outfit the night before, or having dinner together.

Since starting school can make the entire household feel chaotic, having a routine will keep things more under control and help give stability to your child's life.

First Day of School Preparation

Preparing Mentally and Physically for School

Rehearse the Day with Your Child

Do a "rehearsal" with your child before the first day so they understand where the school is and how they will be getting there and back.

Go step by step through each thing that they will do. It's especially a good idea if you can take them to the school and show them each place they're going to go. You don't want your child having an accident because they can't find the bathrooms.

Ready for the big day
Ready for the big day | Source

Prepare Everything the Night Before

The morning that they'll start school can be stressful enough, don't make it worse by having to deal with an unprepared child.

The night before school starts gather together all of their school supplies and make sure they're organized and that everything is there. Set out their clothing so your child doesn't argue about what they'll wear the next day, you don't want to have to get in a fight on the morning of school when they decide they'll only wear their princess dress or magic cape or they're not going. Deal with battles like that the night before and reduce the stress of the big day.

Getting prepared the night before is a good thing to do every night before school, whether on the first day or not. Mornings are not the time for figuring things out since most kids don't get enough sleep.

Her first day of school
Her first day of school | Source

Don't Forget Your Camera

In all the chaos of getting ready to go to school, don't forget your camera! You'll want to get some adorable shots of your little one getting ready, waiting for the bus, or walking into school. If nothing else, you can show them off to your baby's prom date, just a few years down the line.

It might be a good idea to have a bag of items you want to bring with you the first day, all packed and ready to grab as you walk out the door. Put in your camera, some tissues, a few baby wipes, and perhaps that special stuffed animal-just in case.

It never hurts to be prepared and you want everything to go smoothly.

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Riding the Bus to School

If your child is going to be riding the bus to get to school you'll want to prepare them for that as well.

Even if you'll be there with them that first day or if you'll be driving them to school to start, it's important to explain to them:

  • When the bus will be coming
  • Where to wait for the bus
  • How to get on the bus
  • How to behave while on the school bus (a group of kids on a school bus may behave like a pack of wild animals. Make sure your little one won't contribute to an accident by letting them know they have to remain seated at all times and that they are not allowed to throw things)
  • How to avoid getting car sick and where to sit if they really easily get sick
  • Where to go when they get off the bus
  • How to find their school bus out of all the others waiting (most buses have numbers, regular route drivers, and they can also ask the drivers where they are going)
  • Almost every child has a horrible fear of getting on the wrong bus and ending up lost. Reassure them and explain how to handle that possible problem.
  • What to do when they get home and off the bus

Riding the bus can be terrifying for kids at first, but by explaining exactly what is going to happen and when, the kids won't have to go on the bus without knowing what to do, and so will feel more comfortable. Knowing what is going on even if they don't have to do anything makes for a more relaxed child.

Taking the Bus for the First Time

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Walking to the first day of school
Walking to the first day of school | Source

Walking Them to School

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Walking Into School

Picture via Creative Commons from andrea2382

Kindergarten Should Be Fun

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Getting the Good Times Going

Even once your kids are home, make sure they know they had a good time. Point out the good things about school to your child. Let them know there will playtime, lots of learning, other kids, and fun games to play. If you get enthusiastic about them going to school and how much fun they're going to have there, they'll think it's a great place to be.

Transition to Kindergarten

My First Day of School

My first day of school was a day I waited for anxiously. Though my brother and sisters had really hated school, I didn't let that sway me. There was no way that going to a place where you learned new things all day could be anything less than fun. I was utterly bored with being home constantly and having nothing to do. I hadn't yet discovered my love of reading, TV primarily had silly soap operas on, and there were no kids anywhere close by. Even Mom couldn't even play with me half the time because she was busy.

After learning that I would soon go to that interesting place, school, I was ecstatic. We got me signed up, located my classroom, made sure all my shots were updated, and did joy of joys, school shopping. I spent days packing and repacking my things, making sure everything was in a proper place and prepared. I was ready.

The morning for school finally came. Mom made me a bowl of cereal for breakfast and then we got in the truck for the drive to school. It was a long drive for someone eager to get to a new place. When we finally reached school my mother pulled up to the curb and I opened the door, said "bye, Mom" and jumped down and started off toward my kindergarten classroom. I was halted pretty quickly though, by the panic in her voice as she shouted "Alisha, wait!" and hurried out of the truck to catch up with me.

Mom explained that she wanted to walk me to my classroom and make sure I was going to be alright before she left. She said she could even stay there that day in case I needed her. I had no clue why that would be necessary, but I let her take my hand and together we walked to the classroom.

On His Way to School

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Reader Feedback

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    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      This is a very comprehensive, parent-friendly resource. SquidAngel blessings.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 7 years ago from Royalton

      Your lens brings back memories of my first day of school. I remember shining shoes, packing lunch boxes and standing by the bus while my mom took my picture. Thank you for the memories.